6pm - 7:30pm BST
Friday 14 October 2022
Seeing is believing: A century of visualizing molecules
University of Surrey
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Structural Biologist and Nobel Prize winner
Venki Ramakrishnan grew up in India and left at the age of 19 for the United States. After a long career there, he moved in 1999 to the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. He works on the structure and function of the ribosome, an enormous molecular complex that reads the genetic information on mRNA (itself copied from a stretch of DNA) to synthesize the proteins they specify. His work also showed how many antibiotics work by blocking bacterial ribosomes, which could help to design better antibiotics. For this work, he shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. From 2015-2020, he was president of the Royal Society.
Ramakrishnan is also the author of a popular memoir, Gene Machine, a frank description of the race for the structure of the ribosome and the science and personalities involved, He is currently writing a popular book on why and how we age and die.
About the lecture
From astronomy to zoology, our understanding of science has been transformed by our ability to see objects from planets to molecules. It is a triumph of human achievement that scientists had surmised the existence of molecules and even the structures of simple molecules before they had ever seen one.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the new method of x-ray crystallography allowed us to see molecules starting in 1912 with common salt which has only two atoms but nevertheless changed the way chemists thought of this substance, all the way to large biological structures like the ribosome which has half a million atoms and translates the genetic instructions on mRNA to make proteins -it is the factory that makes the thousands of proteins in each of our cells including the spike protein in the recent covid mRNA vaccines.
This lecture will highlight recent revolutionary advances using electron microscopy that allow us to visualize even larger and more dynamic biological molecules.
About the series
The Adams-Sweeting Lecture series was created in honour of two of the University of Surrey’s most prestigious academics – Distinguished Professor of Physics, Alf Adams and Distinguished Professor of Space Engineering, Sir Martin Sweeting.
The lecture sees experts, innovators and scientists deliver fascinating talks on pioneering developments in their area of expertise. Feed your intrigue, expand your mind and join us to learn about the innovations shaping the world.